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Climate Resilience in the Urban Context: Sustainable Landscapes for Southern California Businesses

Today the Pacific Institute, in collaboration with the CEO Water Mandate, California Forward, and Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, released a new report, “Sustainable Landscapes on Commercial and Industrial Properties in the Santa Ana River Watershed,” accompanied by an interactive online map. This report represents phase one of a collective effort among the business community, public sector water managers, and other stakeholders to improve water and climate resilience through sustainable landscapes. With the release of the report, we are now launching…

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National Geographic Presents: Water Scarcity

By Peter Gleick, President Emeritus and Chief Scientist October 2016 The reality of climate change, driven by the fossil-fuel industrialization of the planet, is upon us. Scientists have known for decades of this risk and have, with increasing urgency, tried to alert the public and policy makers about the threat and the opportunities to reduce that threat, to little avail. And now, we must live with unavoidable consequences, even as we continue to work to reduce the emissions of climate-changing…

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National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Diablo Canyon, Climate Change, Drought, and Energy Policy

By Peter Gleick, President Emeritus and Chief Scientist June 24, 2016 The announcement that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) will close the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant when its current operating licenses expire in 2025 has caused what can only be described as consternation mixed with occasional conniptions among the nuclear industry and some strongly pro-nuclear groups. That’s understandable. Diablo Canyon is aging, but is not the oldest nuclear plant in the fleet and PG&E could have chosen to push for…

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National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Global Droughts: A Bad Year

By Peter Gleick, President April 27, 2016 Populations around the world face many severe water challenges, from scarcity to contamination, from political or violent conflict to economic disruption. As populations and economies grow, peak water pressures on existing renewable water resources also tend to grow up to the point that natural scarcity begins to constrain the options of water planners and managers. At this point, the effects of natural fluctuations in water availability in the form of extreme weather events become even more…

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National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Impacts of the California Drought, Part 2: Net Agricultural Income

By Heather Cooley, Kristina Donnelly, and Peter Gleick September 3, 2015 Last week, the Pacific Institute published the first comprehensive analysis of the impacts of the drought on California crop revenue and agricultural employment through 2014. The study showed that during the recent drought California’s agriculture sector experienced record-high crop revenue and employment. Crop revenue peaked in 2013 at $33.8 billion, the highest level in California history, and declined only slightly to $33.4 billion in 2014 (all economic data have been corrected…

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National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Impacts of the California Drought: Agriculture

By Peter Gleick, President and Heather Cooley, Water Program Director August 26, 2015 California is in a severe drought – four years long now. But what does the drought really mean for the things we care about: food production, fisheries, industrial activities, rural communities? As part of the work of the Pacific Institute to evaluate both the impacts of water problems and identify smart solutions, we’ve just released the first comprehensive assessment of the actual impacts of the drought for California…

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New Data Show California Cities’ Progress towards State-Mandated Conservation Requirements

by Kristina Donnelly, Research Associate August 4, 2015 In response to the Executive Order Governor Brown issued in April, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency regulation requiring 25% savings in urban water use across the state, with a goal of saving 1.2 million acre-feet over a nine-month period. Each water supplier serving more than 3,000 connections was given a conservation standard based on how high their residential use was in the summer of 2013; those with higher use (in gallons per…

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New Data Show California Cities’ Response to Drought Is Highly Uneven

By Matthew Heberger, Senior Research Associate March 24, 2015 As California heads into its fourth consecutive year of drought, and pronouncements about our water supply are increasingly dire, new data released by the state show that water use and water conservation efforts in cities across the state are highly uneven. Since June of 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board has required urban water suppliers to submit monthly reports of water use, in order to help track conservation efforts. As of now,…

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The Impacts of California’s Drought on Hydroelectricity Production

By Peter Gleick, President March 17, 2015 California’s hottest and driest drought in recorded history has shifted the sources of electricity with adverse economic and environmental consequences. The Pacific Institute has just completed and released a report that evaluates how diminished river flows have resulted in less hydroelectricity, more expensive electricity from the combustion of natural gas, and increased production of greenhouse gas emissions. The current severe drought has many negative consequences. One of them that receives little attention is how the drought has…

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The State of the California Drought: Still Very Bad

By Peter Gleick, President January 13, 2015 The California drought continues. While we do not know yet what the rest of the wet season will bring – and while we hope for the major storms needed to recharge our rivers, groundwater and reservoirs – it seems increasingly likely that California will not see enough precipitation to get out of the very deep deficit that three years of drought (so far) have produced. There is, however, some misleading and confusing information…

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The Growing Influence of Climate Change on the California Drought

By Peter Gleick, President December 8, 2014 Over the past three years (and indeed, for 10 of the past 14 years) California has experienced a particularly deep drought. How bad is the drought? Is it the worst in the instrumental record? The worst in over a century? The worst in 1200 years? The worst “ever”? And why has it been so bad? There is no single definition of “drought.” Drought, most simply defined, is the mismatch between (1) the amounts of water…

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Huffington Post: When Our Responses to Drought Make Things Worse

by Peter Gleick, President October 18, 2014 In a new study just published by the journal Sustainability Science (Springer), analysis from the Pacific Institute shows that many of the fundamental responses of California water users to severe drought actually make the state’s overall water conditions worse — that in the end, many of these actions are “maladaptations.” Water is a complex resource; and water problems are an equally complex mix of natural resource, technology, social, economic and political conditions. When water is limited, such…

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What about Desalination during the Drought?

by Amanda Pebler, Communications Intern August 13, 2014 When discussing the current drought in California, there is often talk of desalination and its potential to increase our freshwater supply. Desalination, the process of removing salt and minerals from saline water, seems like an obvious solution to the drought and ongoing water scarcity concerns because it is a reliable, drought-proof water source. Indeed, fourteen new desalination plants have been proposed along the California coast and one is under development in Carlsbad.…

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Planning For Rain: Why Storm Water Management Matters during the Drought

By Paula Luu, Communications Manager July 31, 2014 It’s been weeks, even months, since some parts of California have gotten rain, and it’s likely it will be a few more months before rains return. Water districts across the state have imposed mandatory and voluntary water restrictions to encourage water conservation and efficiency, but there have been fewer discussions around what and how we can prepare for the upcoming rainy season  during the drought. Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain…

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The Multiple Benefits of Water Conservation and Efficiency for California

By Heather Cooley, Director of the Pacific Institute Water Program July 29, 2014 California farmers have made great progress in updating and modernizing irrigation technologies and practices. For example, in 1990, more than two-thirds of California crops were flood irrigated. By 2010, that number had declined to 43% and is likely even lower today. During that same period, the percent of land irrigated with more efficient microsprinklers and drip irrigation increased from 15% to 38%. These improvements are one of…

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Why Has the Response to the California Drought Been so Weak?

By Peter Gleick, President July 20, 2014 In the past few weeks, I have had been asked the same question by reporters, friends, strangers, and even a colleague who posts regularly on this very ScienceBlogs site (the prolific and thoughtful Greg Laden): why, if the California drought is so bad, has the response been so tepid? There is no single answer to this question (and of course, it presumes (1) that the drought is bad; and (2) the response has been…

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Over Twenty-Five Years Later, How Does the Drought in California Compare?

By Amanda Pebler, Communications Intern July 20, 2014 “Future droughts are likely to cause still more severe impacts to California’s environmental resources.” -1987 “The drought is not over. Without doubt, another dry year would result in much more severe situation than California has experienced thus far.” -1991 In the midst of the California drought and the hot summer months ahead, more data and public information are needed about what to expect and what are our options for action. The Pacific…

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Urban Water Conservation and Efficiency – Enormous Potential, Close to Home

By Matthew Heberger, Research Associate, Pacific Institute, and Ed Osan, Senior Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) June 10, 2014 This post is cross-posted at the NRDC Switchboard. As California continues to face severe drought conditions, a new report released today by NRDC and the Pacific Institute tallies the huge potential to lower water use in virtually every community across the Golden State. Reducing water demand can help make our cities more resilient to future droughts, saves energy and reduces air pollution,…

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A Tale of Two Farms: How Water Efficiency Could Help Drought-Proof California Farms

By Heather Cooley, Director, Pacific Institute Water Program, and Claire O’Connor, Senior Attorney and Agricultural Water Policy Analyst, NRDC Water Program  June 10, 2014 This article is cross-posted at the NRDC Switchboard. For many California farmers, this growing season has been the “worst of times”. While all of the state is in the midst of a severe drought, conditions are most acute in the state’s most productive agricultural region.

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Clarifying the Discussion about California Drought and Climate Change

By Peter Gleick, President March 7, 2014 In the last few months, as the severe California drought has garnered attention among scientists, policymakers, and media, there has been a growing debate about the links between the drought and climate change. The debate has been marked by considerable controversy, confusion, and opaqueness. The confusion stems from the failure of some scientists, bloggers, reporters, and others to distinguish among three separate questions. All three questions are scientifically interesting. But the three are…

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Finding Light (and Water) at the End of the (Drought) Tunnel, on the Farm and for the Future

By Anna Olive Klein, Agricultural Water Steward Project Coordinator  February 11, 2014 With all the flurry of attention surrounding the drought these days, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the bleak future of California’s water. Apocalyptic forecasts and desolate images dominate much of the recent media dialogue. While it is clear the drought is bad news and its effects will trickle into a variety of sectors from our food to energy supplies, much of the conversations surrounding the drought…

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Learning from Drought: Five Priorities for California

By Peter Gleick February 10, 2014 Droughts – especially severe droughts – are terribly damaging events. The human and ecosystem costs can be enormous, as we may relearn during the current California drought. But they are also opportunities – a chance to put in place new, innovative water policies that are not discussed or implemented during wet or normal years. In the hopes that California’s warring water warriors open their minds to policy reform, here are some of the issues…

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The Costs of California’s Bellwether Drought: What Can We Expect?

By Peter Gleick, President The simplest definition of “drought” is that there is less water than we would like to do the things we want, from watering farmers’ fields to providing for urban needs to sustaining ecosystems. The costs of drought vary widely from sector to sector, and often include things that are hard or nearly impossible to measure or to quantify. As a result, it is difficult to report on drought costs in a comprehensive or consistent way. And until a…

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California’s Bellwether Drought

By Peter Gleick, President February 5, 2014 It is time to recognize the serious California drought for what it is: a bellwether of things to come; a harbinger of even more serious challenges to California water resources allocation, management, and use. The drought could end next month. It could go on for more years. But it will not be the last drought and it is vital that we take the opportunity — amidst the serious problems farmers, cities, and the…

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Infographic: What We Can Expect from the Drought

By Paula Luu, Communications Manager January 24, 2014 While our weather-beaten friends in the Midwest and Northeast braced for near-record low temperatures and polar vortex snowstorms, Californians rang in the New Year with a rainless January.  2013 had gone down as the driest calendar year (since we began keeping record of rainfall 119 years ago), so it was no surprise when Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency on January 17. The governor’s official statement has changed the state’s political…

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What Can Californians Expect from the Drought

By Peter Gleick, President January 16, 2014 California has a “Mediterranean” climate, which means that each year it has a concentrated rainy season, followed by a long temperate and dry period. California’s rainy season typically runs from early October to late March, with very little precipitation outside of these months. (Figure 1 shows the average monthly rainfall for California.) It is now early 2014 and the rains have not come, for the third year in a row. While the definition…

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